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How to Make a Wise Career Switch – Dawn Graham

As people work longer, making a career switch is becoming more common. Planning a career change after 50+ takes a savvy approach that’s in tune with what’s needed in the marketplace today. And a second career can offer an opportunity to apply your skill set in different ways and pursue greater meaning and purpose. But a mid-life career shift takes a smart strategy and a targeted plan to fully leverage your skills and your network.

Is It Time for a Career Switch?

In this episode, we talk with Dr. Dawn Graham, who’s written Switchers, a go-to book on making a career change. We talk with Dawn about:

  • Her personal experience with making a career shift
  • What skills are critical in making a smart career change
  • What types of career transitions are the easiest – and which are the most difficult
  • How people can best prepare to change careers later in life
  • What people really need to know about networking
  • Advice for people re-entering the workforce or unretiring
  • How people can navigate the realities of ageism
  • The best place to start when planning a career switch


Dr. Dawn Graham is one of the country’s leading career coaches, with two decades of corporate experience in recruiting, executive coaching, talent management, leadership assessment, teaching, and business transformation. As Career Director for The Wharton School’s Executive MBA program, Dawn works with a population of hard driving business executives, most of whom are changing careers at the prime of their professional lives while vying for some of the world’s most competitive jobs. Dawn is also the of host Sirius XM Radio’s popular weekly call- in talk show “Dr. Dawn on Careers” offering advice on career transitions to a diverse population of North America.

A contributing writer for, Dawn’s first book “Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success” was a #1 new release and shares a practical roadmap with fresh strategies based on her background as a recruiter and psychologist for how job seekers can get into the mind of the hirer and successfully land a career switch. A licensed psychologist, Dawn holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Denver, a master’s degree in applied behavioral science from the Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelors’ degree in psychology from Seton Hall University. She is on the Board of Directors for the MBA Career Services for Working Professionals, an alliance of the top 30 global MBA programs. She also has an appointment with the Wharton Management Department.

Dawn joins us today from Philadelphia.


Wise Quotes


On The Power of Your Transferable Skills 

“People are making more switches today for a variety of reasons…a lot of times we get on a path early in our career that turns out to not be as interesting as we thought or maybe it doesn’t align with our values as we move forward with other parts of our life. I think the people who are successful in making switches recognize the power of transferable skills. Certainly it’s important to have some technical capabilities. But what we’re seeing now, especially as the market is changing so rapidly, is that there’s a lot of hybrid careers. Meaning they want technical skills, but they also want what has been for a long time called ‘soft skills’. And I would venture to say that they’re not soft at all, that they’re pretty key.”


On Planning a Career Shift

“Our identity gets really wrapped up in a career, especially if you’ve done it for several years or even several decades. It’s hard to look at yourself differently. But once you start to strip away the acronyms and some of the language, you’ll realize that a lot of what you’ve done is very transferable to a new market. And the other thing I would say is you probably should be doing this anyway because chances are, whatever industry or profession you’re in today, it’s going to morph very, very quickly. So you’re going to need to know how you can take those skills and transfer it to somewhere else.”


On Asking the Better Question

“I think you have to first understand what the reasoning is and then if you do decide, yes I still want to switch careers, then your next step is figuring out what is it I want to do. And I like the question for this: What problem do I want to solve? And the reason I like What problem do I want to solve? versus What do I want to do? or  What do I want to be? is because it really does remove a lot of the things that cloud our judgment. For example, if I say What do I want to be? or What do I want to do? all of a sudden we’re thinking titles, levels, salary and company names. And I think if you’re trying to figure out what your next step is, that stuff can get in the way of coming to a real answer.”


For More on Dr. Dawn Graham

Read Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success


Ted Talk


Related Podcast Episodes You May Like:

Why People Make a Career Change with Purpose Top of Mind – Chris Farrell

Will You Be an Entrepreneur in Your Second Act Career? – Dorie Clark

What’s Next for You? – Jeff Tidwell

If You Plan on Working Longer, How Do You Best Prepare? – Kerry Hannon

Will Your Second Act Career Be in the Gig Economy? – Diane Mulchay


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